Meaningful September baseball?
Could have fooled a Blue Jays team supposedly in the midst of it and an abandoning-ship fan base that is staying away in droves as its team nose-dives its way through one of the most critical series of the season.
Three games up against the suddenly surging again Texas Rangers, three down.
This time it was a dispiriting 10-0 Blue Jays loss on Wednesday night at the Rogers Centre, a contest played out in front of yet anther small crowd, perhaps indicative of a restless fan base grown weary of the frustration.
With little to cheer, many among the announced crowd of 25,495 jeered instead, particularly in a 1-2-3 bottom of the sixth and their team already down by a converted touchdown.
And as the losses pile up, the Jays are heaping more onto the workload just to make it to the playoffs as a maddeningly inconsistent season continues.
The “we’ll get ’em next time” refrain that has been the anthem of the 2023 season is getting more off key by the day, especially after losing by an aggregate of 26-7 through the first three of a four-game series that concludes here on Thursday.
This was supposed to be a big series for the Jays, a springboard into a run to take some of the stress out of the final two weeks of the season. Instead it’s all gone thud, especially in the latest debacle, as a team masquerading as a playoff contender suffered it’s worst loss since an 11-0 drubbing at the hands of the Miami Marlins on June 19.
A third consecutive defeat to an opponent they could have all but taken care of this week dumped the Jays to 1.5 games behind the Rangers for the second AL wildcard spot and a full game behind the Seattle Mariners, who hold down the third.
This still may be a playoff team, but right now it’s hard to buy in on the prospect. At 80-66, the Jays have three fewer wins than the 2022 team did through 146 games and are about to be in a fight for their post-season lives.
On Wednesday, the savvy-hitting Rangers took care of business the way good teams do: Seizing opportunity. In this one, it was belting a pair of homers off Toronto starter Yusei Kikuchi — a three-run shot by Nathanial Lowe in the third and a two-run blast from Robbie Grossman in the sixth.
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As has been the case on far too many nights, the listless Jays offence had no answer, mustering just three hits through six innings when the game was as good as over.
And the uglier it became, the more irked the crowd became, reining down boos on George Springer, Bo Bichette and Vlad Guerrero Jr. in that quick sixth, a flashpoint for what this team has been mustering offensively of late.
Manager John Schneider vainly attempted to drum up some enthusiasm prior to the game, suggesting an early lead would be key.
“You have to try to get out to a lead,” Schneider said. “That’s us, you have to try to get out to a lead. That’s us, in a nutshell, and that’s the key to these guys.”
Early lead? Early to bed, perhaps.
No, the Jays aren’t done yet, even though it feels that way to a fan base that seems more disgusted than it has been in several years.
But through three-quarters of a non-competitive series against a team they are chasing, the Blue Jays have done little to inspire, a point punctuated by the few thousand who remained to see a ninth-inning homer from the Rangers Mitch Garver.